Independent University, Bangladesh is one of the pioneering private universities in Bangladesh maintaining an enviable reputation at home and abroad. In more than ten years this institute has not only grown bigger in size, it has also been able to evolve an education system that encompasses a wider range of disciplines. As I talked with Vice Chancellor Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury and Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr. Omar Rahman recently I came to know about some of the secrets of this accomplishment. I am sharing some of it with our valued readers.
IUB- aiming for the peak
An hour and a half is a pretty long time on a busy day. But when it is spent in the company of Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury, vice chancellor of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), one would consider it very well spent. This writer has been harbouring the urge inside for a long time to meet Prof. Chowdhury in his office and have an informal discussion concerning IUB, over a cup of tea perhaps. The opportunity came recently. And the tea was splendid. The informal talk became even more casual and friendly when Prof. Omar Rahman, pro-vc of IUB joined us.
Before I reproduce the excerpts below, here is a brief resume of Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury. Prof Chowdhury obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree followed by a Master of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Dhaka in 1961 and 1962 respectively. Upon receipt of the British Council Scholarship, he pursued further studies in sociology at the University of East-Anglia in Norwich, U. K., where he earned a postgraduate diploma in 1969. From 1978 to 1982, he participated in an overseas training program sponsored by the University of Rajshahi. This resulted in a Philosophy Doctorate in the Sociology of Development from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, U.K.
Working at the University of Rajshahi from 1966 to 1990, he rose from a lecturer in the Department of Sociology to a professor of sociology. Also, he served as chairman of the Department of Sociology from 1976 to 1977 and as Dean of Student Affairs from 1982 to 1985. From 1990 to 1992, Dr. Chowdhury was a Professor of sociology and Registrar at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet, Bangladesh.
He is working at Independent University, Bangladesh since 1994, rising from Pro-Vice Chancellor to his current position of Vice Chancellor.
Prof. Chowdhury is the author of "Pre-colonial Bengal and the Asiatic Mode of Production"(Journal of the Institute of Bangladesh Studies, Vol. VI, 1983). He co-wrote 'Productivity and Equity in IRDP Co-operative, Irrigation schemes' (with S.A.Qadir, J.P. Emmert and R.N.Dey, Institute of Bangladesh Studies, Rajshahi University and Resource System Institute, East-West Center, Honolulu, 1978) and 'Agrarian Capitalism, Bangladesh and Egypt' (with Bryan S.Turner, Capitalism and Class in the Middle East (by Bryan S. Turner), Heinernann Books, London, 1984). He also attended a number of international seminars and conferences and presented research works.
When he joined IUB as its vice chancellor, Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury talked about implementing a model of education unique in the country. He wanted to expose students to various liberal arts subjects such as art, culture, geography, history, literature, philosophy etc in the first year.
This model was aimed at providing holistic education to the students so that it would help build them up not only as worthy citizens of Bangladesh but groom them up to be worthy global citizens as well. He is happy today because the Board of Directors of IUB had given him full autonomy to implement his vision. No doubt they are enjoying the dividend- in terms of quality education.
Prof. Chowdhury has also worked hard to create a transparent and non-hierarchical environment in IUB for better interaction and results. His colleagues say it with a great deal of admiration that the door of the VC is always open for all and he treats each and every person or problem with equal importance. In fact, talking to a number of his colleagues one gets the feeling that everything is not centrally designed or controlled at IUB.
While talking about Prof. Chowdhury's policy of decentralization, Prof. Omar Chowdhury commented that on the very first day of his joining, the VC, instead of giving him a long list of works to do, had asked him, “What do you want to do?” This sentence imparts the meaning that he allows plenty of space where a faculty can implement his or her innovative ideas. It can be anything like improving the physical environment or introducing a new teaching method or organizing a seminar or bringing about some change in the curriculum and so on. He tells everyone to work to the best of ones ability because, in his own words, “Your success is IUB's success.”
Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury is a doer and he leads from the front. As a result, no matter how small an event is, he tries his best to be present there. Prof. Chowdhury's humility is manifest in his giving full credit to his colleagues for IUB's success story and in sharing the laurels with them.
On the question of quality of students of the present times Prof. Chowdhury said that present generation students are intelligent, they have more access to sources of information and they are interacting at a global level. Such early exposures help sharpen their intelligence and prepare them to be worthy citizens. He said that IUB admits the best and the brightest and provides them with quality education. The students have to complete the Living Field Experience course through which they get to learn the intensive aspects of rural life in Bangladesh. It's a graduation requirement. Besides regular academic activities, students also take part in debating, creative writing, sports and different types of cultural activities.
Dr. Omar Rahman said that through the Student Exchange Programme students from overseas countries come and study at IUB and similarly our students go and study in some foreign university.
The Centre for Health, Population and Development (CHPD) of IUB, of which Dr. Omar Rahman is the director, is a centre that facilitates research, scholarly activities, training and policy dialogue among both national and international experts.
Before saying goodbye to both the academics I wanted to know from Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury about the vision he is nurturing in his heart at the moment. With his characteristic affable smile he said, “ We want to be known in the world as the leading university, the first choice, in higher education in Bangladesh.”
Sans Campus Politics
There is no scope to deny the contribution of Dhaka University in national political movements like mass upsurge, language movement and liberation war but now it has nothing remarkable to speak about except creating violence and disrupting normal educational activities. Students thinking about their bright future are playing into the hands of the so called campus politicians. General students have no right, opinion or intention except to act as silent audience over the campus kings' intentions. So, the million-dollar question always comes into a student's mind when will the golden time come when they will get the opportunity to express themselves properly? It is high time that campus politics is banned. I want to convey my heartiest congratulations to the interim government for taking the initiative to ban student and teacher politics on the campus. Actually, I have no words to define the current caretaker govt. but as a unique one which has acquired its uniqueness by taking timely decisions in all aspects of reforms regardless of any pressure from both home and abroad.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007